Hesse, Karen. Safekeeping
September 2012, Feiwel and Friends, ARC from Baker and Taylor.
Reviwed at Young Adult Books Central
Radley is volunteering at an orphange in Haiti when the news reaches her that the United States is in grave danger-- the American People's Party has come to power and the country is in chaos. Radley insists on flying home, but when her plane lands in New Hampshire, her parents aren't there. With only fifty cents in her pocket, she starts walking to her home in Vermont, but her parents aren't there. The police come frequently to her door, and she is afraid they are there to arrest her. She eventually decides to walk to Canada, where things are calmer, and along the way meets an ill and uncommunicative girl, Celia, and her dog. The two eventually settle in an abandoned school house, where they scavenge for food in a landscape oddly barren of people. They are left food, clothing and supplies in a nearby barn, and manage to survive. Celia has been abused and is pregnant, so she likes her life in Canada. Radley, however, decides to go back home, where she does find information about her parents and has to decide how to continue on with her life once the political situation settles down.
Strengths: Illustrated with fifty of the author's black and white photos, mainly of the countryside, this is a survival tale that includes philosophical themes of family and security. I can see fans of Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It enjoying this when they move on to high school.
Weaknesses: I would have liked more information earlier in the book about the political situation, and I found the pictures confusing at times-- they often reflected something that was going on in the story, but were occasionally random.
Scarrow, Simon. Gladiator: Street Fighter.
12 February 2012, Puffin
Marcus has been bought by Caesar after saving his niece, Portia, from being killed during a gladiatorial battle. He is to be Portia's bodyguard, and he is treated better than he was at the gladiator school, but he still wants to be free in order to find his mother and save her from enslavement. Instead, he gets drawn into the political intrigue of the day, and when he finds out that Caesar's life is in danger, he goes undercover to spy on the men who are threatening him.There is a gang war going on because of the political climate, but many in the gangs wish to go back to their lives of simple larceny and extortion. Even though he is about eleven, Marcus manages to save the day, but he is still not able to find his mother. Another book must be in the offing.
Strengths: This sequel to Fight for Freedom is in hot demand-- I won a British copy and a student has been pestering me for it for a week. Lots of fighting, action, people getting stabbed AND a lot of political history. Even though I studied Roman history, I didn't know about the gang wars. Perfect for the 7th grade social studies curriculum.
Weaknesses: Don't think this is available in the US in hardcover, and can't ascertain the title of third book. Personally, I didn't care for this one because of all the fighting. There were also a lot of present day values superimposed on this historical period-- kind of lost me when Marcus and Portia have a heart-to-heart and she is concerned about him even though he is a slave. Don't know that this would really have happened.